Archive for the ‘Book Reports’ Category

Alex Cross’s: Trial

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

James Patterson w/ Richard Dilallo
Alex Cross’s: Trial
Publisher: Vision

First:- Who is the author of the story? I know that Patterson helps some authors get printed by allowing them to co-author a story. Much like an apprenticeship or is it mentoring? This story “Trial” has me a bit confused. Patterson is involved in the story making with Dilallo as the co-author… but who is Alex Cross? Is he fictional or real? And the story originated with Alex’s GrandMa? And it is the story of her uncle? I feel like I have fallen into a rabbit hole and haven’t found Alice or the Wonderland.

Second:- The story itself. I liked it a lot. It is set in the early 1900’s. Starts in Washington and goes to Eudora Mississippi. Ah, the deep south where men were men, women were brainless and blacks were cattle. This was the beginning of the era of change that left our world, at the closing of that century, turned on its head. The story itself is about the beatings, torture and lynchings of black folk that “didn’t remember their place.” It is about the revolution started by one white lawyer and a community of blacks, to stand up for rights Granted in the North but Denied in the South. The focal point is the trial of three white men for taking the law into their not so clean white hands. A snapshot of history to remind us what evil can lurk in the minds of men.

Third:- The layout of the story. Like all of Patterson’s books it is a quick read. The guy loves to create chapters whenever and wherever possible. Only have one minute to read? Perfect, you can read a chapter in about a minute. There are only 140 chapters spread over 392 pages with a lot of white space… and the story seems to end too quickly.

A pleasant read and somewhat educational. You should enjoy it, unless you can’t manage second hand offenses.

Fall of Giants by Ken Follet

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

title: Fall of Giants
author: Ken Follet
publisher: Dutton

I have been reading Ken Follet’s works since the early eighties. The first book was “The Eye of the Needle” read out loud while I and a friend drove down to Florida for a golfing vacation. I was hooked and reeled in by his writing style. A behind the scenes look at history (fictional and almost ((ahem)) plausible). So picking up “Fall of Giants” to read was a given.

The first thing that should be noted is that it is book one of a trilogy. I don’t think book two has been written yet. The trilogy will cover a time span of perhaps a hundred years. Book one starts with the brief prologue of Billy, a Welsh miner to be and his initiation into the coal industry. This prologue is a short story in itself. Then the main story begins. It covers the period from January 1914 to January 1924. Honestly? The book is about the First World War: what lead up to it, the war itself and the aftermath.

It is a story about the triumphs and the tribulations of “Class Warfare.” A Welsh coal mining family with the main characters Billy and Ethel, brother and sister. The Earl of Aberowen and family, the Earl and his Russian wife (a princess). Then a German Aristocratic family… A Russian Workers Family… An American “Nouveau Riche” Family… You see the World War through their eyes. Yes, that means a lot of story jumps from one family to another, one character to another. Besides being a book with three parts: before, during and after the war; the story breaks down into dates where the action takes place and mini stories within those dates about one or more of the families and what they did. If you are a bunny rabbit you will be able to keep up with all of the hoping around. If not…

If you never studied this period of history this book will be a good primer for understanding that time period. Not the historical events as they unfolded but the mind-set of that moment in history. It is only a hundred years in the past but baby, you have come a long way. In other ways we haven’t changed at all. I like history when it is revealed through story and not dry facts. This story is entertaining and educational. Though a bit long I got through it rather quickly… for me. I do recommend reading the book. However, be forewarned that some of the scenes are sexual in nature. If you are easily offended or aroused, ignore the book and read something more wholesome.

Oprah’s Book Club – the Dickens you say

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Linda is always looking to expand my reading list. I was brought up in a French Canadian family and the reading of Charles Dickens’ works never came up. That doesn’t mean I never heard of him or that I am not familiar with his stories. My first exposure to the classics was through the colour comics. Classic Comics put out many of the stories written by Dickens. Eventually my dad bought a brand new black and white television and we watched some of the older films such as “Scrooge”, “A Tale of Two Cities” and others. I thought the English were quite a strange group of people. So as a kid, comics and television were my first introduction to the works of Charles Dickens. Peculiar that I never read anything of his while attending an English High-school for four years. So comics, movies and more movies with different versions and a musical or two thrown in was my exposure.

Oprah’s List? Linda saw a book containing two works by Charles Dickens. She found it at Chapters on the Oprah’s List discount table. Wow, what a deal. And approved by Oprah! Can’t get any better reference than that. Of course I am thinking that if it was only a book containing one work by Dickens, perhaps it wouldn’t have made it to “The List.” So she bought me the book and it was a delight reading the two stories.

A Tale of Two Cities… I thought I knew the story, read the comic and saw the movie. It was a grand tale of characters who were English and French. I thought the English were strange! In the novel the French didn’t take a back seat to strangeness. The tale of these people and the struggles they faced in London and Paris of the 1700’s was educational.

I still shake my my head when I reflect on the story. It begins with the famous line, “It was the best of time, it was the worst of times”. Very familiar words. It ends with “It is a far, far better thing I do…” Great lines but the story seemed to be a mystery to me. Nothing else seemed familiar.

What I found strange is the way it is laid out. I thought I was watching a serial rather than one continuous story. Like watching “Flash Gordon” or “The Rocket Man” at the movie theater. Later I found that this story was a series in a magazine… so I guess my impression was right.

The other story in the book was “Great Expectations”. Again, I thought I knew the story but was far off the mark. Only in a few places did I remember a scene. The story of a young man living a strange life. I won’t get into any details… just pick it up and read it for yourself.

Both stories were good. I told Linda I can hardly wait to see the old movies once again to see how different the written tales are to the film versions. I don’t know if you can still get this book at Chapters. Linda bought it at Christmas time at a discount. What I do recommend is that you get a copy of the stories and read them for yourself. I do not think you will be disappointed.

In the Center of the Storm / My Years at the CIA

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

In the Center of the Storm / My Years at the CIA
by George Tenet w/ Bill Harlow
publisher: Harper Collins

This book will be of interest to those who want an understanding of how the intelligence services of the United States government operate. Specifically under the leadership of George Tenet He was the leader of the CIA at the tail end of the Clinton Administration as well as at the beginning of the Bush administration. The book is broken down into several different sections. The first is the early years when he took the position of Deputy CIA chief. He then takes on the mantle of CIA chief and is responsible for the co-ordination all of the intelligence gathering for the United States government.

His first actions as chief of the CIA is the war on terror. This war on terror began earlier then the events of 9/11. Al Qaeda, then and now, are the central players that George Tenet was involved with bringing to justice. He also showed what the CIA could do against the Taliban in Afghanistan if given the resources to handle the problem. The opening of the war was very quick and very efficient. In a matter of months they overthrew the Taliban government and set up Karzai as the leader of the interim government.

Not all of the actions of the CIA were efficient. That became very evident during the war in Iraq. There the CIA was hamstrung by the DOD and the State Department and they could not fully implement the measures they wanted. Sadly it became a dark comedy of errors. In tandem with this was the search for weapons of mass destruction. The search for these weapons was not done diligently. Personally, I believe that some of these weapons are still located somewhere in the deserts of Iraq, but will probably never be found seeing that the governments that are taking part in the search were not willing to take whatever efforts were necessary to resolve the problem.

I found George’s book to be of some value in understanding the background of the CIA and other intelligence agencies. It was a somewhat interesting read. The many pictures that were included in the book were rather mundane and do not add to the value of the book itself. On a scale of four stars being the best I give this book two stars. For entertainment purposes this book has no value. For historical purposes, it has some value, but as with all autobiographies, what is written needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

Side note: I have just installed my “Dragon NaturallySpeaking” version 11 and set it up to operate on my computer. It is a word recognition program that changes what you speak into words on the page. This is the first thing I have dictated with it. Not bad, and it is a far improvement over version 6 that I had eight years ago. On a scale of four stars being the best I would, at this time, give the product a rating of three stars.

New Testament Times by Merrill C Tenney

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

New Testament Times by Merrill C Tenney
publisher: Hendrickson Publishers

First, it is not a story book. This is much more like a high school textbook. It is rather dry and the photos that are included are of poor quality. I guess that they didn’t want to increase the cost of the book by adding glossy pages so that the photos would come out better. That was a mistake. There are enough footnotes to please the dilettante wiseguy.

The title is a bit of a misnomer. It is a history book that covers much more than the 50-100 years of the middle-east surrounding the time of Jesus. It begins with Alexander the Great and ends with the Roman emperor Hadrian. That is a time span of 500 years. The first 350 years deals with the conquest of the Greeks and the rise and demise of the Maccabean dynasty of Israel. Onto the stage comes Rome and the Herod dynasty, if you can call it a dynasty, and the fledgling church. In the end, the history stops at the height of Roman power and the expansion of Christianity through the known world.

It is written to show windows on an era. The first thing that the author writes about is the geopolitical structure of a particular time. The major power of the world, then the regional power, if any, of a more limited middle-east. The next part deals with the religious struggles of the people in Israel (and later the church). The chapter ends and the author moves fifty years or so into the future and repeats the pattern of explanation: major power, regional power, religious struggle.

As a history book it is passable. It was somewhat interesting, but a dry read. I do not recommend it for the average reader. A more interesting book is called “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah” by Alfred Edersheim. It too can be a bit dry but it has a superior presentation and is limited to the time of Jesus.

I give this book two stars out of a possible five. And that is a stretch.

Branded Outlaw by L Ron Hubbard

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Branded Outlaw by L Ron Hubbard
Publisher: Galaxy Press

L Ron Hubbard is better known these days as the founder and past leader of the Church of Scientology. Before the church? An explorer, researcher, cowboy, naval officer, etc, were just a small slice of this man’s life. In the 1920-30’s he was a prolific writer of pulp novels, novellas and short stories. The subject material ranged from air adventures to westerns. I specifically enjoyed reading some of his science fiction novels. Now about…

Branded Outlaw, a novella, novelette or whatever the term you prefer is a western with a plot familiar to those who enjoy b/w westerns of the silver screen era of the forties. In size it is as wordy as a Reader’s Digest abridged novel, almost. No colour commentary to speak of, just punchy plot with a few twists. A man gets a letter from his father saying that his long time enemy has moved into the same valley. The son leaves Wyoming and races to the aid of his dad…

I enjoyed this quick little trip down pulp fiction lane. I don’t think it is worth the full cost of $10 Canadian. Now it was worth the price of $3.99 with an additional iRewards discount of ten percent. I have two more of these pulp books to read. They are nothing like the larger works of fiction Hubbard would write in the future. Of course if you happen to be a Scientologist you might want to buy his books because you like the man more than his writing.

What I found interesting is that the word Scientology does not come up once anywhere in the book. Even in the extended little bio of “L Ron Hubbard and American Pulp Fiction,” the religion is not mentioned. I guess they want people to concentrate on the works of fiction and not the religion… which many think is a great work of fiction itself. Having studied Scientology myself I would have to say the critics know nothing of the beliefs or the application of it.

Another interesting aspect of the book, as short as it is, is the glossary of terms used in the book. Its inclusion and scope reflect the belief that it is extremely important for people never to pass by a word they don’t fully understand. It is derived from Scientology study technology. I do wish I would have checked the list of contents at the beginning of the book. It would have saved me a lot of internet surfing trying to discover what some of the words he used meant. All in the glossary… who ever checks those things out first? Or at all?

Well this book report has become a little wider in scope than I first intended. I should stop before it rivals the book itself. (That was a little bit of lame humour) I am certain that you can find or will eventually find, these books in a second hand book store. The price will be about right for it then. Since Hubbard has passed away, if you feel like enriching his estate, you can pay full price if you have that desire.

In the end… I thoroughly enjoyed reading this western. That itself is all the book report you actually need to know.


Decision Points by George W Bush

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Decision Points by George W Bush

publisher: Crown Publications 2010

A trip down memory lane? No, not even close!
A stroll down Pennsylvania Ave? Closer…
Walkabout in the bush with Bush? That’s got it!

What a journey this man has been on. It touches upon his life as a kid to college student to salesman/entrepreneur. He writes of his time as governor of Texas. He spends most of the book writing about his time as President of the USA. The walkabout? That is how I envison his passage from running for the presidency to his leaving the presidency eight years later. He entered as a man, and I believe history will say, he left as one of the great presidents.

The layout of the book was not what I expected. Like many people we like to start at the beginning and go to the end in order. If he did that he wouldn’t have called his book Decision Points. He structured the book by related events. He quit drinking and all the events related to that subject. 9/11 and all the events that held. Other topics with their own chapters: Stem Cells, War Footing, Afghanistan, Iraq, Katrina and some others with the Financial Crises coming last.

Was there anything really new to read? I would say, for myself, no. It was a refresher course in all that I had observed and learned over his eight year presidency. Some of the details however were new but did not change any of the context. Although I don’t think he took the right approach at some junctures in the decision process, and in retrospect his thoughts eventually agreed with mine, he held the reins of power and I believe he did a better job than most everyone else could have done with information on hand.

Are you a liberal? Are you a democrat? Are you an average Canadian (whatever that means)? You probably disagreed with most everything Bush had done. Of course listening to these groups over the course of his presidency I always wondered where the heck they were getting their info? As far as I could figure it came out of the darkness that is “politics as usual” and that is a condemnation of those who practiced it.

Others will certainly have their own opinions about the book. If you like politics, want to see what happened behind the scenes, and learn how Bush was motivated through it all… this is an excellent book to read.

I enjoyed it.

HALO: Evolutions: sci-fi

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Linda bought me a sci-fi called HALO Evolutions Volume One for Christmas. This book is based on the game HALO which Microsoft plays a big part in its ownership and distribution. I have seen many of the commercials but never played the game.

What I found interesting is that it takes a snapshot of the entire Halo game timeline. There are nine short stories written by six authors. The first story starts with the origins of who they are. It proceeds through to the human conflicts. The new “Covenant” conflict with a xenophobic species out to get mankind. Finally the book ends with the story of one man’s life and his historic victories over enemy humans and later aliens.

Remember that the stories are snapshots. It almost gets me interested enough to purchase the game… almost. As a sci-fi buff I enjoyed the journey. I will be purchasing the next book in the series when it comes out.

The Life Recovery Bible

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

In our Recovery Group we use “The Life Recovery Bible” for our study purposes. I just finished reading through the biblical text. It uses a copy of the “New Living Translation.” It is from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Of course if you were to go out and buy a copy today it will use a different translation, though I don’t know the version at this time.

It is a special book designed for twelve step programs. Besides a bible it also has copious amounts of comments at the bottom of the page. Actually there are more comments than biblical text. At the back of the book is a large topical index. What else?

Recovery profiles on the main characters of the bible.
Twelve step devotionals.
Recovery Principle Devotionals.
Serenity Prayer Devotionals.
Recovery Reflections.

Suffice it to say there is so much material it would take a long time to work your way through this book taking the time to do it properly. I may be able to start attending the group out of “Crossfire Assembly” on King St W in Hamilton Ontario.

Now as for the particular translation. I believe it would be a good bible for those who have a grade ten education or better. As with all translations it comes in its own flavour. If it were say, ice cream, something green that tastes minty and has a few crushed nuts sprinkled throughout. Overall it meets its purpose for being an easy read though it does take certain liberties in translation. Of course some would call it a transliteration.

As for a general purpose bible? No, there are more bibles, even “New Living Translations”, that would be better for the average reader. If however you are working in a recovery group… trying to overcome compulsive/obsessive/addictive behaviour… this book is a real gem.

Battlefield Earth by L Ron Hubbard

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Battlefield Earth by L Ron Hubbard

I have read one of Hubbard’s sci-fi’s in the past and jumped at the chance to read this book. Found it at the Costgo store in Burlington. Two whole bucks. What a deal.

I saw the movie when it came out a long time ago. It was a strange story that ended with the destruction of the invaders home planet. Pretty good feat when you consider this happened after a thousand years of occupation and the human race at that point in the story were almost on the point of extinction.

I thought therefore I knew the story. When I opened the book and saw the print was quite small (about four hundred plus words to a page) and that there were 1050 pages… boy, that was going to take a bit of time for this slow reader to get through it. But how could it be that big… the movie showed a pretty fast clip of a story?

So I started reading the story and to my surprise the movie took quite a bit of liberty to change the story development to make it as fast as it was. It almost got to the point that they could have been telling a different story. Then I read about the destruction of the invaders home planet by us simple humans… and that at around page 250. Huh????

Seems the story didn’t end there. There was a human antagonist who was maneuvering the rest of the people to overthrow the hero. Oh, and the fight with several other alien species who rose to power in the vacuum created by the defeat of the other alien race. Then there defeat. Hmmm… still hundreds of pages to go.

What I found funny is the last enemy to raise their heads. A race of small, grey, humanoids who in essence ruled sixteen universes. You know who they were? Bankers! They printed the money, made loans and watched over the finances of hundreds of empires in all those universes. Guess what? We humans took over the bank.

Oh, this was a much bigger story than the movie. It was quite enjoyable. I am glad that I had the opportunity to read such a long tale… for two bucks.

If you like sci-fi then this story is a good read. You should know however that the book was published in 1980. Sci-fi has come a long way since then. Some of the terms are outdated but the story? Never!